Ms. Rhodes glances over her thick rimmed glasses at the clock, and sighs. 3:03. She then clears her throat and announces, “Homework for today is up on the board as usual. Don’t forget to turn in your permission slips for the 8th Grade Washington D.C. trip!” Her small speech is met by blank stares and looks of confusion. She then leans back in her chair, expression not happy, not upset. Neutral. She reaches down under her desk, sausage like fingers fumbling around her knock-off Coach bag. They come out grasping a Weight-Watchers Chocolate Creamy Delight Bar. She looks at it and scowls. Then, she gropes around her bag and finally replaces the Weight-Watchers bar with a Hershey’s Cookies and Cream. She quickly tears it open with stubby fingers and wolfs it down in record time. She looks around at the silent classroom full of students reading textbooks, and relaxes, glad nobody saw the little break from her diet. Again, she looks at the clock. 3:09. One more minute. “Time to pack up!” There is a rush of students slamming textbooks shut and chatting with one another. The bell shrieks and there is a mad dash for the door. Ms. Rhodes nonchalantly organizes her already-too-clean desk, making sure every pencil is sharpened to perfection, and all her papers are stacked in perfect towers. She then picks up the remainder of ungraded quizzes, her handbag, and her gray raincoat. After standing up and looking around to make sure she has all her belongings, she leaves the classroom and locks the door. Pulling on the raincoat she bought 4 years ago, she struggles with the buttons. Realizing that it is too tight, she gives up and just pulls it tightly against her skin. She then looks at the gray sky, and walks emotionlessly to her car. She waddles into her battered Kia, and starts up her sputtering engine. When she reaches her apartment building, she pulls off her raincoat and enters her building. Tim the doorman greets her with a friendly smile. She tries to grin back, but when she finds no success, she gives him a curt nod. When she gets to her room on the 10th floor, her hand goes to her pocket for the key. When she enters, she kicks off her high-heels and flops onto her couch. She looks at her clock. 3:57. Suddenly, she grins. Its time. She slips on comfy flats and ties her lifeless, red hair, courtesy of Revlon Fiery Red #12, back in a ponytail. Darting out the door, she hops into the elevator and forcefully presses the lobby button. She grins radiantly at Tim, and bounces into her Kia. She drives to the St. Mary’s Church, and almost skips into the quaint house of worship. When she enters she is greeted by a chorus of “Hey Kim! It’s great to see you here again!” She smiles back, and almost looks beautiful. In the Church basement, there is a seemingly endless line of slightly dirty people. Grandpas, grandmas, fathers, and children, clinging tightly to mothers, of all different racial backgrounds and religions. She laughs as a dog scurries into the arms of a young girl, and then Kim assumes her place at a table full of brown paper bags. As the line of people gets shorter and the smiles grow bigger, Kim looks like she is truly happy. She feels like she is handing out bags of gold to these people, even though they are just meals. As their stomachs grow fuller, Kim’s loneliness seems to ebb away. But, soon the hour slips away, and Kim trudges back to her Kia. Her once-illuminated face is back to its lifeless self. When she opens the door to her apartment, she stares ahead, not quite focusing on anything. Just thinking. As she thinks about her life, and how meaningless it seems, she starts to sob. She flings herself onto her bed, and weeps into her pillows. Hysterically now, her vision is blurred by her salty tears. She walks over to her window, and jerks it open. She stands on the ledge, looking down at the cold, hard pavement far below. She nods, and takes a deep breath. She squeezes her eyes shut, and clenches her fists. As she is about to jump, she sees the elated faces of those in the St. Mary’s Church. She remembers the pure joy radiating from them, and steadies herself. She inhales deeply. “I will live for them. For them. I will do it for them,” she whispers. And climbs back into her room. She shuts the window, and locks it. She hurries back into her living room. She has quizzes to grade.
June 10, 2011